Chapter 3 of Nobody’s Daughter. Think we’ll end with this.
Uneasy darkness swarmed over me, a whirl of flickering half-images and flashing lights. Then, dimly, I heard someone call my name.
“Satoshi?” I groaned. Tried to move. To think. But my body felt stiff and sore. Hard and unyielding as the ground beneath my cheek.
No. Not ground. Stone, maybe? At least it was cold. I tried to sink deeper into that coolness to still the pounding in my head.
A pounding that only increased when I heard my name being called again. Then someone nudged my shoulder, setting off monochromatic whiz-bangs of pain behind my eyes. Those miniature fireworks intensified when I rolled over on my back.
“Renata, please wake up.”
It didn’t sound like Satoshi. “Juno?” For a moment, the name sounded foreign to my ears. Thick and blurred around the edges. My mouth felt like someone had stuffed it with a wad of rough cloth.
“It’s Aya. Come on! Wake up! You have to wake up!”
This time, the voice was closer; its owner’s sour breath gusting over my cheeks. When she said it again, her name seeped into my consciousness, desperate and insistent. Moaning, face shielded with one hand, I struggled to a sitting position and opened my eyes.
I sat on the floor in what appeared to be a windowless room. Light glared from above, creating long shafts that patterned the tiled floor in tight pools. I could see three from where I sat. In the thick, vaguely astringent-smelling air, the light beams looked like ghostly columns.
Aya knelt at the edge of one of those pools beside me. Her long hair hung in matted strings, some so sticky with blood they appeared black instead of brown. Gashes riddled her hooded sweatshirt, and a livid patchwork of cuts and bruises covered her face and arms.
“It’s Tobi,” she sputtered. “He’s over there.” She winced, nodding at another hot spot in the murk. A body lay inside it. From where we sat, all I could see was the back of him and part of a protruding hand, fingers loosely curled.
Then I saw the blood. So much blood! Too much. More than a single person could lose and still live. A pool spread out from his prone form, gleaming dully as it congealed. Shielding my eyes with one hand, I peered through the murky gloom but couldn’t tell if he was still breathing or not.
“He won’t wake up!” she moaned.
A dim memory clicked into place as the walls threw her voice back at us. Night. Hunting. We’d been together, but…
The next thought ebbed away on a wave of nausea. I gulped down bile, then said, “Where’s Satoshi?”
“I don’t know where he is. Or Juno. We’re the only ones here.” Aya rubbed her arms, shuddering. “Wherever here is.”
My head jackknifed up, setting off another round of unwanted fireworks. “How’d we get here? Do you remember anything?”
“I remember being outside the Ruins, then… nothing. Sorry.” She shrugged. “What is this place, Renata?”
The Ruins, right! There’d been an explosion. I turned, scattering glass shards as my hands scrabbled in the dim-lit space for my naginata—thankfully, it was still there, although the knives on my leg sheath weren’t—then paused to take in the rest of the room.
Bare grey walls curved as they stretched into shadow, forming a dome over our heads. Streaks covered the lower portions of the walls, creating an eerie ombre effect that lightened as it neared the floor, which angled down slightly to the drain at its center.
When I saw that drain but not a showerhead in sight, a single thought snapped into place, echoing through my brain like a gong strike. Satoshi told stories about places like this one all the time. Grim stories, each peppered with shreds of whatever conspiracy theory captured his fancy at the time.
“It could be a detention center,” I said, then tried not to wince when she gasped.
Which also meant we were in one of the holodomes, stuck in a chamber usually reserved for shōkōhin—criminals and enemies of the regime. Detention: a misleading term for a hole they threw you in to either leave you to rot or torture you to within an inch of your life. Or both. There were seven holodomes, but (again, according to Satoshi), not all had detention centers. The one in our prefecture didn’t, and neither did the one near Nagasaki.
And, while what we’d done was technically a crime, I could think of way worse ones than breaking curfew. After all, Doctor Mazawa, military head honcho over all holodomes, was the one who’d endorsed the damned kufugaki bounty in the first place! Creating a grisly cottage industry with his edict for my clan, the Hakodate, and anyone else who lived outside the vaunted domes.
My head snapped back to Aya, setting off more throbbing. At least it was duller and without so many fireworks this time. “Hey, do you still have your crossbow?”
“I’m not sure…” She turned away, running her hands over the floor. “Crap. It’s not here.”
“It still might be. Keep looking.” Being allowed weapons didn’t exactly jibe with the whole detainment process. Not if Satoshi’s stories were true. “You go that way.”
Using the naginata for support, I struggled up, thoroughly intending to get down to business, but had to stand there like a jackass, swaying slightly until the head rush passed. What had been in that damned blast, anyway?
Aya, having made better headway, was nearing a narrow shaft of light across from the spot where Tobi lay. Her next hesitant step produced a faint click. I heard a grating sound, then her knee buckled. Aya staggered, arms flailing, and then she fell forward, shrieking.
“The floor, Renata! One of the tiles! It moved!”
Continued on Wattpad.